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Author Topic: Defense Spending  (Read 2275 times)
Seth Gannon
Jr. Member
Posts: 79

« on: April 26, 2011, 11:55:22 AM »

After our research, we don't have a topic we can recommend to the community. We’ll do our best to keep this short, as there are successful topic papers to read, but there were two primary reasons that defense spending didn't lend itself to a clear, stable controversy this year.

The first and most troubling to us is a dearth of good affirmative cases. While there is robust literature advocating cuts to the defense budget, much of it centers on waste and the broader budget deficit. Demonstrating that a program wastes millions of taxpayer dollars is a powerful argument, of course, but doesn’t make much of an aff advantage, especially in the face of counterplans that find savings elsewhere. Similarly, any plan that makes large enough cuts to solve the deficit—if defense cuts alone can do so—runs up against counterplans that leave one of hundreds of single programs or line items in place.

Originally, we were overly optimistic that we would find good external advantages to ending any one of a wide range of procurement programs. What we found instead were a small set of familiar college debate issues, like ballistic missile defense and Prompt Global Strike, which may be destabilizing, if anything, because they are too effective. These procurement affs also face an uphill battle against various DoD reprogramming counterplans, particularly if the topic were to require an overall decrease in defense spending—not the intended formula for such a topic, and not a very enticing one.

We also looked at personnel and end strength but found similar problems. Cutting overall end strength may save money but is no more strategic or interesting than the affs discussed above. In addition, such an aff creates an odd bidirectionality, as the resources freed up by end strength cuts might be redirected into R&D and procurement to achieve a leaner, more technological military. If affirmative teams instead advocate retiring the troops who do a specific mission, any counterplan to end that mission and keep the troops makes the topic a bit silly.

There are related questions of global strategy and deployments, but the more we pursued those, the more we exactly recreated this year’s high school topic.

Second, next year’s defense budget seems much more in flux than we expected when we began work on this paper. Of course there is a fine line between timely and non-unique, and most of us lean very strongly toward timely topics, even if they are slightly unpredictable. Timeliness was in fact the single largest appeal of a defense spending topic this year.

Despite these sentiments, we became concerned that a topic designed to feature a wide array of relatively small procurement affs—which had not worried us at first thanks to the quality, variety, and stability of generic neg disads—would be difficult to distinguish from the $400 billion in cuts that the President and the Pentagon are now pursuing. In other words, the new instability in the defense budget compounded all of our other growing hesitations about this topic. We very briefly considered pursuing the topic the other direction—maintaining or increasing defense spending—but didn’t like that topic much and suspected the broader debate community would like it least of all.

We have more, smaller concerns—the other 998 proverbial cuts—that we are happy to discuss if we or others pursue this topic in the future. In the meantime, we are glad to answer any questions and excited to see so many more promising topic papers.

Huge thanks to Gordon and all the topic paper authors for their hard work, and thanks in particular to Ryan Galloway, James Herndon, Dan Shalmon, and others for their help and guidance to us.


Nate Cohn
Seth Gannon
Kevin Kallmyer
John Warden
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